September 6, 2018

For whom do you vote? Trust but verify - facts and truth in the digital era

Peter Österdahl

Business Developer, Tieto Security Services

Election day is almost here in Sweden. Perhaps you have felt angry about particular stories or articles in your social network about the election (or the past election if you are not living in Sweden)? Maybe even shared news and written some comments about it as well. Did you fact check or just share?

If not, take it easy, you are not alone. Anger is the most viral emotion on the internet. How we are influenced by friends on social media tends to echo those messages, a study explained some years ago.

Fact checking has become a lot easier, but in some aspects also harder, in the digital era. Easy in the way that information is available on a whole different level today than 20 years ago. Harder in the way that there is so much information, someone is even checking the fact-checker. It can sometimes be quite hard to see through which story or news articles or even blog posts that are fake. What says that this one contains any truth?

The importance of fact checking, which in the past pretty much has been handled by traditional media, is today very much up to you and me. Not because traditional media has become worse at fact checking, but because the way we seek information, and how information finds us, especially how we are targeted through social (and) media and ads is on a whole other level than it was let's say 15-20 years ago. As a result society has become even more vulnerable.

Running half-truth digital campaigns for or by any foreign country that has an interest in geopolitics, not just the usual suspect(s), has become a lot easier as well. An army of anonymous Twitter bots can cause a lot of noise.  We see through some of the most obvious stuff; pretty much in the same way we discover spam emails, or an sms telling you that eg. IKEA gives away a gift card if you visit the link. Misspelling or bad language could be some of the easiest ways to discover some of the attempts.

In a way, the analogy of citizens being alert and doing the fact checking on information they receive is not far off from how our Security Operations Center operates. Handling 24/7/365 operations protecting our customers, they are bombarded with fake news, or false positives as they call them, massive amounts of information which needs careful analysis and investigations to determine if it is fake or not. Signaling out the relevant stuff from the noise is hard even for our well trained staff. We rely a lot on people, processes, and technology but also on threat intelligence, global as well as local, pretty much the same way we as citizens should act in order to do better fact checking and come to a conclusion. The SOC is all the time at the middle of similar things a citizen sees mainly during important public topics such as elections.

Creating the smarter society requires a lot from the end users. Tieto fact checks the threats targeting our customers and their networks. For you as a citizen in one of the best democracies on this planet; you have a personal responsibility to fact check your own personal and social networks and peers. Together we enhance the digital cyber security of the citizen.

If this is a topic close to your heart and operations, Please feel free to get in touch with me or Maria Nordgren to discuss.

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